Almost 24 hours after the keenly contested chairmanship position of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which was won by Mr Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, the Presidency has distanced President Goodluck Jonathan from the outcome of, and indeed, the controversial election.
In a statement issued on Mr Jonathan’s behalf by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, the President insists that he played no role and had no preferred candidate in the election.
Mr. Amaechi was re-elected despite stiff opposition from his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and allegedly by Mr. Jonathan, the party leader.
Amaechi’s re-election on Friday came as a pleasant surprise to many because he dared the establishment and in the process, floored his closest rival – Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, by 19 votes to 16 even though the outcome has caused a split in the rank of the Governors.
The presidency has now said it did not support Mr. Jang, or indeed any candidate in the elections.
“We have noted with regret the mischievous effort by sections of the mass media to portray President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as an interested party and the main loser in yesterday’s election of the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF)” Mr. Abati said.
The President is currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attending the 50th Anniversary of the African Union but following the newspaper headlines which suggested that his candidate was defeated, the Presidency had to quickly correct the impression of presidential partisanship and interference in the affairs of the Governors Forum as Abati explained, “President Jonathan who is currently leading Nigeria’s delegation to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa had no preferred candidate in the NGF elections and could therefore not have been “floored” by any other candidate as some newspapers sensationally reported”.
He added that President Jonathan has the greatest possible respect for the Nigerian Governors Forum as an “independent body of mature, responsible, and knowledgeable elected political leaders who have a critical role to play in strengthening democratic governance in the country, and who are quite capable of running their own affairs without being tele-guided, as some media reports misleadingly implied.
“The President has always shown a willingness to work harmoniously with any leadership freely and independently chosen by the Governors Forum for the collective progress and development of all sections of the country and will continue to do so,” Mr. Abati said.
“He has not in the present instance or ever before, interfered in elections to leadership positions in the Governors Forum. Reports in the media which convey that impression are totally off the mark and the handiwork of mischievous individuals and groups with the intention of sowing the seeds of discord and disunity in the polity.
“President Jonathan trusts that as true democrats and respected national political leaders, members of the Governors Forum will quickly resolve the issues and differences amongst them which emerged yesterday and continue to contribute effectively to national development as a strong and progressive body,” he added